We Tried Chipotle's New Plant-Based Chorizo to See if It's Any Good
The chain created its own meat substitute instead of sourcing from another company.
Chipotle doesn’t have chorizo anymore. Or does it? It’s complicated. Deep breath! The burrito maker introduced it nationwide in 2016, removed it from menus in 2017, then brought it back for a little while in 2018. You can’t find the chicken and pork-based sausage on menus anymore, but based on recent news, Chipotle just can’t quit chorizo.
Last week, Chipotle announced it’s testing a new, plant-based chorizo in the Denver and Indianapolis areas. Because meat-free options at fast food spots are getting more and more delicious everyday (and even tempting carnivores into trying it out), we swung by a Mile High-area Chipotle to taste-test the new chorizo and see if it’s worth ordering.
Chipotle skips the fake meat market and develops its own
Many restaurants have left the development of vegan meat to others, partnering with the fake meat duopoly of Impossible and Beyond Meat to create tantalizing foods like Starbucks’ Impossible Breakfast Sandwich and Carl’s Jr.’s Beyond Star burgers. Instead, Chipotle decided to create its chorizo in-house, resulting in a plant-based meat made from peas with 20 grams of protein. All that’s well and good, but can it stack up to the ultra-realistic meat substitutes?
Tasting the new plant-based chorizo in a bowl and a burrito
I love Chipotle. I love it so much, I once asked the company to let me roll burritos in order to learn what it takes to work the line (spoiler alert: the employees make it look easy, but it’s not). So when I heard it was going to make its own meat in-house, I was a little skeptical the brand could pull off a passable fake meat, but mostly excited. Chipotle said it took a year to develop, so they couldn’t screw this up, right? Perhaps I should have been more skeptical.
I ordered the chorizo in a burrito bowl. It didn’t look like chorizo, but based on the grill marks, at least it looked like it’d spent time on a hot surface. So far so good! All those positive vibes disappeared on my first bite. The chew felt decidedly like fake meat (as in, dry and mostly flavorless). Not tasting “real” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the chain’s tofu-based sofritas are delicious on their own merit. But sofritas aren’t trying to approximate meat. Simply by naming this plant-based “chorizo,” it’s signaling that it’s going to taste like the real thing. Unfortunately, it falls well short, lacking chorizo’s spicy, fatty, unctuous bite. This chorizo gets lost in the bowl, swallowed up in the mix of black beans, corn, and rice. Like me at a middle school dance when a slow song started playing, it completely disappeared. Perhaps this chorizo also hides behind the bleachers when “End of the Road” comes on.
After a couple bites, the heat from the chorizo’s spice blend, which includes Ancho Chili and Chipotle peppers, made itself more known. But it could have used even more seasoning, as it felt less spicy than the animal-based chorizo previously on the menu. And I continued to be disappointed by the texture, which overshadowed everything else.
I decided to roll up the burrito bowl’s contents into a tortilla to see if eating it in burrito form would change anything. It did! When you add a chewy component like a tortilla, you’re not as distracted by the subpar texture and you get all the benefits from the fake meat (20 grams of protein per serving, the minimal spice blend). I also liked eating the chorizo when it was piled high onto Chipotle’s tortilla chips.
Should you order plant-based chorizo with your next meal?
It’s difficult to recommend this chorizo. And if we’re being real, you’ll probably never get to try it. I’d be surprised if Chipotle ever did a national rollout for a plant-based product that lacks both flavor and a meaty mouthfeel. I’m hoping the burrito chain sees the error of its ways and partners with Impossible, which just released a phenomenal ground sausage in both savory and spicy flavors to grocery stores. That stuff smells, looks, and (most importantly!) tastes like the real thing. With a couple tweaks, its Spicy Sausage would be a welcome addition to any burrito.
Even if this plant-based chorizo never makes it to a Chipotle near you, there’s a great tasting, plant-based protein boost already available with your next bowl or burrito: sofritas.